I needed to write this post for myself, for my clients, for my friends, and for anyone and everyone living in a world where disordered eating is commonplace.
Lately I’m feeling kind of confused about my philosophy and I want to tell you why. As I wrote this post in the notes section of my phone on a plane to DC deep in thought over Intuitive Eating, I realized something. I realized I’ve always taken for granted the fact that I’ve never suffered from disordered eating.
I was surrounded by it growing up. It was everywhere. It was normal. It still is.
I knew young women that threw up after meals and ate non-fat Greek yogurt with stevia for lunch. I knew parents that never had the “good” snacks, that restricted food. As a teenager, I can say with confidence that at least half of my friends had less than normal relationships with food.
So how did I land on the other side? I’ve always said I loved food long before I loved nutrition. My mom always found it funny (and even strange at times) how excited I got over different flavors and textures. I’d say all parents play a critical role in shaping their children’s ability to see food the way they do—as reward, as punishment, as fuel, as fun.
Growing up, my mom was “super mom.” I won’t get into details, but the things she has dealt with in life both before and after motherhood would have broken a lot of people. Nonetheless, growing up she cooked almost every night and baked most nights. Apple cake, cream cheese cookies, and banana bread were routine. To this day, the smell of Thanksgiving is one of my favorite smells in the world.
She bought organic whole grain cereal and Apple Jack’s. Cheese Nips occasionally and Amy’s most of the time. For breakfast, she’d offer me challah French toast, a bagel, eggs, or cereal. Basically the whole kitchen. She always asked if I wanted fruit but never did she force anything upon me.
My siblings and I have always been “normal” weights with fluctuations here and there. We saw food as something that brought our family together, something to look forward to. We had plenty of anxiety, but none of it stemmed from food. I can’t remember one time that I associated food with something negative. I was definitely encouraged to eat more fruits and veggies as opposed to candy or cookies, but those things were always around if I wanted them. I was never restricted. I was never forced to clean my plate. My passion for delicious food aside, I attribute much of my healthy relationship with food to my parents.
I remember one time in fourth grade when I felt “fat.” One of my best friends was teeny tiny and pointed out my “large” jean size. I hadn’t ever looked in the mirror and felt weird about my body until she brought it to my attention. I did weigh more than some of my friends at that age but I was completely ignorant to it because parents told me every day that I was beautiful and that they loved me. They didn’t shove salad in my face or use the word “fat.” Most girls my age would’ve been self-conscious, especially in today’s society where orthorexia (the obsession with healthy eating) runs rampant amongst girls young and old.
I’m finding myself becoming more and more passionate about helping others find the joy in food again rather than focusing on weight management or eating this instead of that. I am very aware that a lot of people delve into veganism to lose weight. I wasn’t one of them. I was and still am insanely passionate about the science surrounding eating plants and their ability to reverse chronic disease. It wasn’t about calories or fat and it never will be.
I will always believe in “the more plants the merrier” mantra but I will be never the person to tell you to skip your favorite scone or sausage or pumpkin spice latte. I think our society has a TON of work to do when it comes to falling in love with food again and ditching the diet mentalities that are quite literally ruining lives. So much joy has been stripped out of eating that I’m finding myself confused.
How can I advocate plant-based diets when so many people are using them as an excuse to fuel disordered eating? My biggest fear is for readers and clients to learn my philosophy or see what I eat and feel worse about themselves. I’m finding that I’m just as much if not more passionate about promoting balance and intuitive eating over promoting plant-based diets. I’d rather help someone rediscover the joy in eating scones than teach someone how to love tofu.
I can’t tell you how angry it makes me when I see dietitians and healthy living bloggers and Instagram personalities posting their 150 calorie smoothie bowls topped with a tablespoon of paleo granola for breakfast. You’re doing your fans and readers a disservice. If you want to eat that, that’s your prerogative; but whether you have credentials or not, people look up to you for nutrition guidance and you must know that you’re setting a terribly unrealistic and demoralizing example.
So what does this mean? How does this change how I practice? I don’t really know. That’s why I’m writing about it. What I do know is that I will never use scare tactics to preach organic or non-GMO or vegan diets. I swear I will never make you feel like a worse person for not eating enough kale.
I don’t want to end this on a negative note. I just need you to know where I’m at. And it’s surely not knee-deep in a bed of greens.